How is success defined in hip-hop? It’s a question that has been debated on the message boards of this very site, at least once a week at exhausting length. For those in the “doin’ numbers” camp, Reks is not considered a success but to the other school of thought, he’s a champion. Straight No Chaser, Reks’ new LP with longtime collaborator DJ Statik Selektah, is the coronation of an emcee at his peak level of skills and maturity. If there was ever a blueprint for new hip hop that pays homage to the Golden Age without sounding dated, this is it. Reks and Statik Selektah combine to make soulful, honest, no-nonsense hip-hop in the classic mold.
Reks and his DJ start things off in sound fashion with “Autographs,” Reks bringing his signature precise lyricism and in-the-pocket cadence and Selektah on the boards with a beat that sounds like the bastard child of Pete Rock and DJ Premier. While Reks definitely killed shit (and killed it again as a zombie) Statik Selektah put his foot in this one harder than Bruce Lee. “Such A Showoff” featuring Kalil, JFK, and Termanology has got sick punchline upon sick punchline over a piano-laden, African drum-heavy banger that perfectly exemplifies why Statik Selektah is one of those cats you should be up on. He’s got a recognizable sound but every now and again he’ll throw something at you unexpected. Reks manages the almost obligatory double-time title track “Straight No Chaser” and excels; spitting with passion, irony, and engaging narrative. The last cut, “730”, is vintage Reks and Statik Selektah–they’ve worked together on virtually every project of Reks’ career so longtime fans will knowingly nod in recognition.
Straight No Chaser is quality 80 proof hip hop. Reks and Statik Selektah never gave a fuck about movin’ units or radio play, and that’s been their modus operandi since day one. This LP is the product of hip-hop heads making the type of music they would like to hear, unapologetically. In the here and now, Reks and Statik Selektah’s artistic integrity is still so far and few between that it now seems that good hip hop actually is ‘throwback’ hip hop. Straight No Chaser is more than that, it’s Coltrane bebop in an age of Kenny G.
- T. Love